It doesn’t take much more than being a casual college football fan to know that Army isn’t a team that is going to wing the ball around for 400 yards through the air every game. There have been some seasons where it has taken months for the 400 yard passing mark FOR THE SEASON to be passed. That, though, doesn’t mean that the Army wide receivers and tight ends are there for nothing more than show.
These players don’t get to make as many highlight reel grabs as a wide out playing for Ohio State or Oklahoma, but the players have to be reliable when the ball is tossed their way. Army generally uses the pass as a change of pace option, throwing the bal to catch out a defense looking for yet another running play. That means that on the occasions the ball is passed, the chance to a major play is available if the receiver can bring down the ball.
Oh. Also. These players have to block. Like a lot.
Army is in a good place when it comes to returners in the wide receiver corps. This really is the most thankless position on the team, with the Black Knights leading targets putting up numbers in a season that would look like a great game for a run and shoot wide receiver option.
These players know that going in though. They are all excellent blockers, both at the point of attack and in sustaining blocks downfield. A great blocking wide out can be the difference between a four-yard run to the outside and a slot back turning that run 55-yards for a touchdown. In senior Kjetil Cline and junior Cam Harrison, Army has a couple of outstanding blocking wide receivers.
These players also have to be able to hit the home run. They don’t have to be the fastest player on the field as the offensive scheme will allow for separation, but they have to be able to catch a ball and take it the distance. Christian Hayes’ numbers from last year are likely what you will see across the board for an Army wide receiver. He caught seven balls for an average of 21.71 yards and a touchdown. Expect the corps as a whole to average 20 yards per catch on the season.
The Army tight end position might, if anything, be even more of pure blocking position than the receivers are.
Junior Jake Lauer will be the expected starter at the position, sharing time with senior Zach Saum. Neither caught a ball in 2018, with the now graduated Quinten Parker picking up the sole catch for the Army tight end group when his reeled in a 14-yard catch against Eastern Michigan.
With the way the Army offense is run, the tight end simply sees the field less than many of the fullbacks and slot backs. When Lauer or Saum is on the field, they will generally be tasked with either keeping the defensive end out of the backfield or getting to the second level and pinning a linebacker so that a big play can be reeled off by someone coming out of the backfield.
When you add in the slot backs – Jordan Asberry was the Black Knights leading pass catcher last year with 11 receptions, 219 yards, and four scores – to go with the wide receivers and tight ends, then you have a group of players ask to fill a variety of diverse roles on any given play. If Army can boost their passing game production from just over 1,000 yards a year ago to something in the 1,250 yards range, then it will be a great year for the pass catchers.